By Alma Miller-Glick
People make fun of “triggers” all the time. “You’re triggering me” has become a phrase said like the punch line of a joke. That’s partially why it’s so hard to explain to people how I feel about Trump winning the election; how can I do it without being mocked?
The truth is that Trump’s victory was like a giant “fuck you” to survivors of sexual assault. He has twelve accusations of assault against him. Twelve. When people cheer for Trump, it’s like they’re cheering for my rapist.
I’ve been set back so far since the election results that it’s impaired almost every aspect of my life. Flashbacks happen regularly, and my anxiety levels are off the chart. My body is feeding off of my mind’s misery, and it’s making me physically sick.
You probably won’t be able to tell who is being triggered most by Trump’s election. Many survivors have learned to bury their emotions and keep a lid on their PTSD in public. This trend of survivors hiding their abuse and their pain will undoubtedly continue, as nearly half of the American public has declared, by voting for Trump, that the accusations by women of sexual assault mean very little.
I won’t necessarily tell you what I’m feeling if you ask me whether I’m “okay.” The only people I can truly confide in right now are people who have been through the same thing I have. It feels pointless confiding in others, who often end up making me feel worse because they do one of the following:
A) Become so distraught that I have to downplay my own pain in order to comfort them.
B) Tell me to “look on the bright side,” or that “everything happens for a reason.”
C) Hear my story and then avoid mentioning it to me ever again/pretend the conversation never happened.
D) Offer advice on the best coping mechanisms.
I understand the responses. People just don’t know how to react, and sometimes they inadvertently do or say hurtful things. But those things have an effect on us. To make things easier, I’ve put a list together of ways to support survivors of sexual assault during a Trump regime:
1) Don’t tell or expect them to “get over” the election. When you tell me to get over it, you are telling me to get over my sexual assault. Give survivors time and space to mourn. This will be at least four years of hell for many of them.
2) When they want to talk, give them a platform. Listen to what they are saying.
3) Be a reliable presence in their life. Check in on them, but do not force them to tell you how they are feeling or insist on spending time with them. Be present, not pushy.
4) Be gentle with your expectations. Sometimes it is hard enough just to get through a day.
5) Ask them what they need. Every survivor is different, and no way of reacting to a sexual assault or a trigger of a sexual assault is wrong.
6) Be an ally for them. Defend them, and work tirelessly to end rape culture.
Since many survivors stay silent about their rapes, be gentle towards everyone. You never know what burdens people are carrying. And if there’s anyone out there who has been assaulted and needs support, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673) who can lead you through next steps. Many YWCA’s also offer free counseling for as long as you need it after a rape or sexual assault, and can point you towards support groups.